Opioids are often used as prescription drugs for treating long-term chronic pain in injured workers.
Studies have shown that prolonged usage and high doses of opioids can lead to addiction and cause other problems such as decreased ability to work, increase in disability for which the opioid was prescribed, and may even cause death in certain cases. There is very little evidence that highlights the benefits of these drugs, proving that they are more detrimental to the health of workers than it was believed.
Prevalent Opioid Prescription Drug Use
The Workers Compensation Research Institute (WCRI) – an independent, not-for-profit research organization based in Cambridge, MA – conducted a study that highlighted the prevalence of opioid prescription drug use for injured workers. According to the study:
- Prescribing opioid drugs was prevalent in nonsurgical claims leading to about seven days of lost time. 60 to 85 percent of the workers receiving pain medications for injuries received opioids in most states.
- Out of the 25 states studied, Louisiana, New York, and Pennsylvania showed the highest number of injured workers receiving opioids.
- Wisconsin, Missouri, and Iowa showed a rise in the average amount of opioids per claim; however, they had a lower amount of opioids per claim than the median state at the end of the study period.
Decrease in Long-Term Opioid Use
The study showes a noticeable reduction in the amount of opioid prescription medication given to injured workers. “Interstate Variations in Use of Opioids, 3rd Edition”, outlined interstate variations, ongoing trends, and the changes in those trends with respect to the reforms in prescription patterns and usage of opioid prescription medication and pain relieving medication in about 25 states. The study used the data of 337,000 non-surgical workers’ compensation claims and about 1.9 million medical prescriptions that were associated with the claims from 25 states, spanning over two 24-months periods from about March 2010 to March 2012 and from March 2012 to March 2014. The data shows a significant reduction in a majority of the states.
This decrease comes as a result of state reforms directed at monitoring opioid prescription drug abuse and prescription drug monitoring programs. These reforms included implementation of drug formularies and treatment guidelines that were laid down by the State.
- In Michigan, claims of injured workers receiving opioids for a long-term basis decreased by more than 2 percentage points that roughly translates to a 31 percent reduction.
- A 20 to 31 percent reduction was observed in North Carolina, Oklahoma, Michigan, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Texas.
- The percentage of long-term opioid use for injuries among workers was lower than the recommended amount by treatment guidelines. At the same time, the frequency of drug tests was quite high among the top five percent of workers receiving opioids for injuries.
Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Workers who are injured or become ill in the course of their employment are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Contact a St. Louis injured at work attorney to know more about your legal rights. Call The Law Office of James M. Hoffmann at (314) 361-4300 for a case evaluation.